Global Mobility and the Threat of Pandemics: Evidence from Three Centuries

82 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2020

See all articles by Michael A. Clemens

Michael A. Clemens

Center for Global Development; IZA-Institute for the Study of Labor

Thomas Ginn

Center for Global Development

Abstract

Countries restrict the overall extent of international travel and migration to balance the expected costs and benefits of mobility. Given the ever-present threat of new, future pandemics, how should permanent restrictions on mobility respond? A simple theoretical framework predicts that reduced exposure to pre-pandemic international mobility causes slightly slower arrival of the pathogen. A standard epidemiological model predicts no decrease in the harm of the pathogen if travel ceases thereafter and only a slight decrease in the harm (for plausible parameters) if travel does not cease. We test these predictions across four global pandemics in three different centuries: the influenza pandemics that began in 1889, 1918, 1957, and 2009. We find that in all cases, even a draconian 50 percent reduction in pre-pandemic international mobility is associated with 1–2 weeks later arrival and no detectable reduction in final mortality. The case for permanent limits on international mobility to reduce the harm of future pandemics is weak.

JEL Classification: H23, I18, J68

Suggested Citation

Clemens, Michael Andrew and Ginn, Thomas, Global Mobility and the Threat of Pandemics: Evidence from Three Centuries. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13947, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3751840 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3751840

Michael Andrew Clemens (Contact Author)

Center for Global Development ( email )

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

IZA-Institute for the Study of Labor ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/profile?key=4270

Thomas Ginn

Center for Global Development ( email )

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.thomasginn.org

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